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By Fr. Jean Denis Saint-Félix, SJ, Superior of the Jesuits in Haiti

July 12, 2021 — On the night of July 6, 2021, a tragic event was added to the long list of painful events that have marked the socio-political life of our country in recent months: kidnappings, assassinations, massacres, massive displacements of populations, the blocking of public roads, and the isolation of more than three geographical departments. Early in the morning, the media announced the grim news: At around 1:00 am, an armed commando assassinated the President of the Republic, Mr. Jovenel Moïse, with twelve bullets from heavy-caliber weapons. The president was in his private residence located in the residential area of Pèlerin 5 in Pétion-Ville, a commune in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. The first lady, Martine Moïse, was hit by three bullets but not killed. She remains in critical condition. The news circulated quickly, like wildfire, in all areas of the country. Paradoxically, it provoked neither outbursts of joy nor public demonstrations of sadness, but rather shock, suspicion, uncertainty, and fear. The population remains holed up at home, and day-to-day life, especially in the cities, is almost completely paralyzed: public transport, public institutions, banks, shopping centres, public markets, informal businesses, etc.

A nun prays during Mass at a church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 11, 2021, following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse July 7. (CNS photo/Ricardo Arduengo, Reuters)

This event, far from being an isolated act, takes place within the context of widespread crisis—indiscriminate violence, armed gangs occupying almost a third of the capital’s territory, almost total paralysis of the political, economic, and cultural life of the country. It is an indicator of a society in disarray, the logical continuation of an alarming and tragic escalation that has gained momentum in recent months. This situation is described in the December 18, 2020 message of the Jesuits. In it, we sounded the alarm and made an appeal to the national and international actors concerned. The assassination of President Moïse, while increasing the chaos in which the country is mired, is also a mirror that reflects the major problems that paralyze society today: the serious security crisis, the collapse of institutions, the constitutional vacuum, the fact that politics has lost all credibility and that a large part of the population has rejected the head of state, the political strategy of “gangsterization” of the inhabitants of the working-class neighbourhoods of the cities and rural areas, the polarization of political life, the miserable failure of international actors, the selfishness and narrow-mindedness of a large part of the all-powerful economic oligarchy…

The president had reached a level of unpopularity rarely experienced by a head of state in the country’s political history. The collapse of the economy and its harsh repercussions on the population, particularly the marginalized sectors of the population, the dissension within his political family (the PHTK) as the elections approached, his open conflicts with powerful sectors of the oligarchy, his lack of political experience and his catastrophic management of the crisis, especially his relationship with the gangs, responsible for hundreds of kidnappings, massacres, and numerous assassinations, etc. Unfortunately, everything heralded the tragic end of the political career of this young entrepreneur from a poor peasant family who was brought into the infernal and corrupt political world of Port-au-Prince by his mentor, ex-President Michel Martelly. His assassination created a near-chaotic situation. Until now, it has been impossible to conceive of a clear course of action that would ensure the continuity of the state and a minimum of political stability, given that the institutional and constitutional crisis is so deep. For its part, the political establishment, particularly the opposition, which is disparaged and divided, has so far been unable to create a consensus and reach an agreement to ensure a credible political transition that would lead out of this quagmire. Will the international community, particularly the United States of America, the true leader of the Haitian political game, be able to support the local political actors to find a way out of the crisis, a way that would benefit the Haitian nation? Here again, uncertainty reigns!

It is within this unique context, which is filled with anguish, uncertainty, and suffering—but also of hope—that we Jesuits of Haiti are called to announce the Risen Christ, the One who has conquered evil, violence, lies, and death, and to incarnate the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus. Such a situation makes us realize our human limitations, our powerlessness; but at the same time it invites us to trust in the grace of the Lord that never fails to enable us to authentically live our mission to sow the seeds of life and hope in the hearts of the women and men of our country, especially the youngest. Thus, we will continue to participate in the process of healing and reconciliation of the great Haitian family so that it can finally experience true liberation and discover a renewed desire for life. It goes without saying that we also count on your genuine fraternal solidarity!

May the Lord bless our country, may he grant us peace, consolation, and serenity!

Port-au-Prince, July 8, 2021   

The Curia of the Society of Jesus in Haiti


Listen to a Fr. Jean Denis Saint-Félix, SJ, share his reflections on and hopes for the people of Haiti with the AMDG: A Jesuit Podcast team: